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a moral standard no higher than his, they united less ability and discretion. The first days of the new administration were stained by a cruel massacre within the collateral branches of the Constantinian family ; and, though the soldiery was the instrument, there was not a little of suspicion that Constantius had a guilty responsibility in the tragedy. A pretended testament, affirming Constantine's belief that he had been poisoned by his brothers, was the excuse that was pleaded for the bloodshed.
An increase of severity toward heathenism marked the administration of Constantine's sons. In 341 Constantius issued an edict forbidding, in general terms, all heathen sacrifices. Later edicts (in 346 and 356) ordered temples to be closed, and attached the death penalty to the crime of sacrificing to the gods. But of these laws there was certainly no rigorous and universal enforcement. The temples in the city of Rome, for example, were left unassailed; and it is recorded that the prefect of the city did not scruple to sacrifice publicly on occasion of certain calamities. Violence seems to have been expended mainly in the plundering of temples; and, even against this, protest was not wholly wanting from the Christian side. “With the gold of the State,” said Hilary, in his criticism of Constantius, “you burden the sanctuary of God; and what is plundered from the temples, or won by confiscations, or extorted by punishments, you obtrude upon God.”
, From the statements of the heathen historian Ammianus Marcellinus, it would appear that some of the spoil gained by this plunder and exaction did not find its way to the sanctuary; for we find him complaining that Constantius consumed the marrow of the provinces in the fattening of his favorites.1
The adherence of the heathen to their own religion was marked by too little of courage and steadfastness to give rise to sanguinary persecution, even had the government been disposed to stop short of no severity requisite for the work of thorough repression. Constantius, therefore, was quite as conspicuous for persecuting Christians who dissented from his standard as for making war upon heathenism. Bishops refusing to conform to his semi-Arian scheme had nothing better to expect than deposition and exile.
The policy of Constantius was ill-adapted to advance Christianity to a genuine and complete triumph over the remnants of heathenism in the realm. Though many professed to forsake their idolatries, it was no hearty or enlightened espousal which they made of the Christian faith. External pressure may make hypocrites, but it cannot make believers. It only needed a reversal of policy, on the part of the government, to show the worthlessness of many of the recent conversions. With the death of Constantius in 361, and the accession of Julian, that reversal came.
II.- JULIAN THE APOSTATE.
Julian, the son of Constantius, who was a half-brother of Constantine the Great, was born in the year 331. He was therefore but six years old when the massacre, which followed close upon the death of his uncle, cut off his father, an older brother, and others of his rela
1 Lib. XVI.
tives. Nothing but his tender years saved him from being numbered with the victims. He was educated in Constantinople until about 344, when he was sent, with his brother Gallus,1 to Cappadocia. Here the brothers remained for six years, in a kind of honorable imprisonment, under the tuition of clergymen. Soon after the close of this interval, Gallus was raised to the rank of a Cæsar, and Julian obtained permission to study in Nicomedia, under the condition, however, that he would not hear the celebrated heathen rhetorician Libanius. Julian, in appearance, observed this condition, and, moreover, gave ostensible indications of a Christian zeal by serving as a reader in the church; but it is understood that he studied the orations of Libanius in secret, and had communication with distinguished apostles of heathenism, among whom was Maximus. The fall and execution of Gallus, in 354, endangered the life of Julian; but he was rescued by the kind interposition of the Empress Eusebia, and was even allowed to pursue his studies in Athens. An unexpected summons soon called him from this retreat; and, honored with the rank of a Cæsar, he was sent to command the legions in Gaul. Success attended his arms in that quarter. On the exhibition of jealousy by Constantius, his enthusiastic troops proclaimed him Augustus; and he was already on the march for the East, to contend for the sole rule, when the death of Constantius in 361) left him the undisputed master of the whole Empire.
The hand of a professed heathen now swayed the sceptre over the heads of Christians.
1 More strictly speaking, a half-brother, as was also the one who fell in the massacre.
It is hardly to be counted an occasion for surprise, that the apostasy of Julian should have become incorporated into the very name by which he is known in history, That a member of the family which had brought Christianity from the horrors of the Diocletian persecution, and enthroned it in the palace of the Cæsars, — a nephew of the great Constantine, — should turn his back upon the triumphant faith and espouse heathenism, could not fail to produce a profound impression. To the minds of Christians it was as if Antichrist had suddenly come forth from the very centre of the Church.
Yet the apostasy of Julian was no miracle of caprice, no event to which antecedents cannot be assigned. On the one hand, it was a strange charity which Julian had received from Christianity, or rather from its unfaithful representatives. To a Christian emperor he owed it (such at least was his own belief) that his dearest friends had been slaughtered. Thus orphaned, he became an object of suspicious tutelage. An obvious attempt was made to hold him aloof from heathen culture and influence. All the instincts of independence in his nature were challenged to elect the forbidden field. And to this bent his spiritual advisers were able to offer no proper antidote through a positive commendation of Christianity. They were probably themselves destitute of a true inner acquaintance with the Christian system, and were incompetent to lead their pupil, even to the threshold of the truth as it is in Christ.
1 In a letter to the Athenians, Julian gives an account of the massacre, in which he indicates no doubt about the responsibility of Con. stantius, though he charitably mentions such considerations as might extenuate his guilt.
While thus repelled by unworthy representatives, and by a false image of Christianity, Julian felt the positive attractions of classic heathenism. By an alliance with Neo-Platonism, the classic system had gained a new lease of life, especially among the rhetoricians and their pupils in the East. A romantic veneration for the past naturally took delight in reviewing the old mythologies, and at the same time a philosophizing temper could find satisfaction in giving to these mythologies some recondite interpretation. Not a little patronage was awarded these devotees of classic literature; and they were able to gather flourishing schools at Miletus, Ephesus, Antioch, Athens, and other places. They were not, in general, men of great profundity; but they had polish and pretension on their side. They prided themselves on being the representatives of culture in the Empire. Christianity was decried as barbarous and uncouth, - a religion for the ignorant multitude. All the truth which it contained, they claimed to have also in their system, only in much finer form. Like some of the pretentious critics of later times, they set themselves over against Christian coarseness as the school of refinement and wisdom, moving amid the chaste ideals of classic taste and beauty.
The prepared heart of Julian easily succumbed to the lure of this cultured heathenism. When he made open declaration of his faith, as he was on the eve of contending with Constantius for the supremacy, he had already been a secret devotee of the heathen religion for about ten years, had received, indeed, an induction of the most positive and solemn type; having first been made a proselyte by Maximus at Ephesus (352), and